4 creative marketing ideas for small business

Photograph of desk of a creative marketing person

While researching this post, I came across literally dozens, if not hundreds of marketing ideas for small business. Lots I had thought of, plenty that I’ve seen put into actions, and few that made me stop and actually laugh out loud (stage a fake protest against lillies in a flower shop? I can’t even imagine how that might work).

I figured another article about networking or content marketing or SEO & Google should probably not be the focus here.

I run a creative business, so I wanted to come up with some marketing ideas that have a bit more zing. Some of them I already do, and others I have decided to implement myself, as a result of my own research, cause they just sound so good!

A strategic partnership with a charity

Working with a charity provides more benefits than just building up good karma points. Using your skills or talents to help a charitable cause connects you with new people, and done properly, will provide mutual benefit for both businesses (because yes, charities are still businesses).

If you’re a fledging serviced-based entrepreneur, doing discounted or pro-bono work for charities can help you to develop your portfolio. However, giving away your newfound skills isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. A charity may run on a tight budget, but they still need to partner up with competent service providers. Treat it as you would any new opportunity and don’t promise anything that you can’t deliver.

If you’re more established, your business could have an annual allocation of charitable work – set number of project hours, or an allocation of your stock to give away. There may be benefits in partnering with just 1 charity, or you could spread your allocation across a number of smaller ones. Think strategically about which approach may work best for your type of business.

You could do seasonal or long-term campaigns, with a certain percentage of sales going to the charity of your choice. It’s in your interest, and the interest of the charity to spread the word about the campaign. They’ll effectively help run your marketing campaign. Your business gets more attention, in the process converting more sales, and as a result money is raised for the charity. Win-win, right there!

What about us? Well, yes, thanks for asking, we do have a cause we like to support! We currently work with DCH Animal Adoptions, and in 2012 created a coffee table book of rescue animals – we did all the photography, writing and design. This year, we are working on their calendar, and it’s not very far away from print.

Think outside the box with branded material

Over the years I’ve worked with a number of agencies, and they excel at creative branded marketing material – especially over the Christmas period. Companies I’ve worked for have received branded wrapping paper (subtle branding obviously, no-one wants to wrap their presents in paper covered in someone’s logo), scrabble letters spelling out my name, beautifully designed desk calendars.

My point is, that branded products can be a fabulous way to share your business. To make it memorable rather than tacky, you need to be a bit creative in your approach.

If part of your service is providing digital files to a client, why not deliver them on a branded USB stick. Chances are they’ll reuse it, or have it lying around in a visible place, serving as a reminder of your business. I’ve done this to deliver files to clients, and it always gets a great response.

When you go to networking events or other client meetings, along with your business card, you could give away a small gift. Be creative around this and come up with ideas that are relevant to your target industry. Giving someone you’ve just met a pen  is probably a bit of a naff idea. But what if you had something that was more of a conversation starter?  Branded teabags anyone?

Position yourself as an expert

Blogging, guest blogging, social media. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think we are all well aware by now that engaging in these activities are pretty much the bare minimum in marketing for small business.

What about  other avenues that are a bit more ‘traditional’? How about finding ways to get your business featured in print media, or other journalistic contexts?

Source Bottle connects journalists with ‘Sources’ (that would be you!). Every day calls-outs appear on the website – and in your inbox if you sign up. If you’re a fitness trainer, for example, there may be a call-out from a journalist writing a story about your industry. It’s a golden opportunity for you to showcase your expertise and get some free publicity.

Another angle is investing in the services of a PR company. They will help you with drafting press releases, introduce you to media contacts, and sniff out media and publicity opportunities for your business. You may only want to explore this route if you’re not the shrinking violet type. PR people will try to get you not only in print, but also on radio and even on TV. That could be kind of awesome though, right?

Get your samples into goodie bags

If you’ve followed through on the idea to get some branded material created, or have some samples of the product you sell, how else can you get them out there? Apart from personally putting them in someone else’s hands.

Source bottle (again!)

You need to be logged in to see what’s on offer, but I did a quick check today and here are a few quick links:

That’s just a really quick selection from their site, there are loads of opportunities there!

Goodie bags at networking events

Are you going to any networking events? Or do you have a regular group that meets. There’s nothing to say that you can’t be the one to organise a goodie bag for an event you’re attending. It might take a bit more work to organise, but you would reap some extra benefits too. By reaching out to other small businesses to contribute, you’ll be making and cementing your contacts. You’ll also see what others are providing – extra ideas for your own marketing fodder.

By including other businesses, you’ll have a bigger reach. Part of the deal can be that enough samples are provided to create a specific number of goodie bags, that you all then distribute through your own networks.

As with any marketing, make sure it’s relevant to your business and industry. There’s no point targeting the wrong market – it’ll just be a waste  of your precious marketing budget and resources.

About the Author


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Cathy is the engine behind Two10 Solutions, as well as the designer behind many of our projects. When not juggling the demands of running Two10, she sometimes finds time to work on the odd photography project.

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